Hold on to your hats cause for some of you the next sentence will be shocking. Professional athletes are not only real people, human beings, but in most cases they are citizens of the United States. I know, take a moment to absorb that factoid. As such, when the Constitution starts with, ” We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union . . . ,” they are a part of “We the people.”
What happens to the general society also impacts their lives in spite of them being celebrities and wealthy. Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem last season to protest police brutality. He stated:
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that
oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told Steve
Wyche of NFL Media in August 2016.
“To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part
to look the other way,” he continued. “There are bodies in the street
and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Earlier this month, Michael Bennett of the Seattle Seahawks was held at gun point by Las Vegas police for being a big black dude running away from heard gun shots. On the streets, he didn’t have his celebrity and status. He very well could have been the next Alton Sterling or Philando Castile. It’s understandable to any reasonable person why he and others would use their platform to address a life or death issue that affects them and those they love.
Change in this country comes very slowly. The Civil War ended in 1865, yet, civil rights laws weren’t passed until the 1960s. Yes, Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott played a significant role. But, the groundwork that came before was laid by Jackie Robinson when he integrated Major League Baseball in 1947. Not sure if we would have had the Brown vs. Board of Education decision that integrated public schools without the integration of sports. Additionally, the groundwork for Barack Obama becoming the first black president was laid by Tony Dungy becoming the first black head coach in the NFL to win a Super Bowl. Progress in sports seems to make progress in society more digestible.
The other reason that NFL players in particular should feel free to use their platform for social change is the physical sacrifices they make to play a game that brings in billions for NFL owners. An autopsy revealed that Aaron Hernandez, former player for the New England Patriots who was serving time for a murder conviction, had the most severe form of Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease, for someone his age. He was 27 years old and played his last game when he was 23 years old.